Sunday, June 30, 2019

More Cat Pictures

Here's where Jasper likes to sleep while I'm writing. Sometimes she shifts around, puts her chin on the ENTER key. and created havoc in my manuscripts.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Cat Pictures

We brought the kid home for the summer today -- or, well, for the month of July. (He's taking an interim course in August, so he goes back then.)

Here's the cat, coming warily to greet him:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

What Can You Possibly Do

...about the abuse of immigrants at the border and elsewhere?

Here's a list.

And here's one part of why you should care

See also this thread

Image result for Children at the border USA cartoon

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What Can We Do?

Nicole and Maggie have some advice for those of us who don't want children in concentration camps on American soil.

Go here for more.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Reading Ben Shapiro's Brainwashed

Honestly, I'm not sure I'm going to read all of this one. After three pages, I have already had my bait of Ben's strident screeching. But let's look at as much as we can stand.

For those of you who are blissfully ignorant of his existence, Ben Shapiro is the darling of the MAGA-American crowd. He is a former editor at Brietbart, and appears frequently on Fox News and posts his "discourse" on YouTube, explaining why trans people are mentally ill and Muslims are "radicalized" terrorists. In 2004, he published Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth, which I'm wondering if anyone read past the title.

It was published by that stellar press, World Net Daily.

Let's have a look.

Brainwashed has not one, but two forwards, one written by the editor of World Net Daily, and the other by David Limbaugh, Rush's little brother. Both are empty stuffing. Ben is a brilliant young genius, what a clever toddler he is, what an important book this is. We'll skip over these.

Chapter One

Ben lays out the case for "brainwashing" by liberal universities.

First he attempts to prove that universities are liberal. He declares,

The vast majority of the professoriate is leftist. This is an uncontested fact.

What's his evidence for this? Ben at least includes his sources (1/4 of the book is sources) so I turn to the back of the book and discover that his "uncontested fact" is based on a single survey, done by the think tank National Center for Policy Analysis.  This think tank (now defunct) was funded by the Koch brothers and among other things worked to deny global warming.

The survey the NCPA ran had 151 respondents, from (as they put it)

professors and administrators in social science and liberal arts faculties at Ivy League universities 
and found that of this small sample, almost none of them selected George Bush as the best president in the past 40 years. (I know, I can't believe it either!)

Also, 57 percent admitted to being Democrats, while only 3 percent said they were Republicans. 20 percent said they were independents.

This is Ben's sole evidence for his "uncontested fact." Frankly, anyone with sense would stop reading right now.

Let's take it apart, shall we? The sample size is too small, and furthermore it's a biased sample. They surveyed only professors and administrators in the social sciences and the liberal arts -- social sciences are in the liberals arts, by the way, so I assume they're selected out for their ability to scare Conservatives.

No survey was done of business schools, and probably none of economics professors (some people think of economics as a liberal art, but since NCPA doesn't define what they mean by "liberal arts," it's hard to know if economics counts). No survey of science professors or math professors.

Also, we have no sample questions, and no link to the actual survey. As those who design surveys know, how a question is worded often influences its answer.

Also, the "survey" ends with this:

Critics point out that academics are all for diversity in the student population, but are against diversity of opinion on campuses.

Who are these critics? On what are they basing this conclusion? Where's their actual statement?

This is very shoddy work, especially since Ben is going to build an entire book on this dubious claim.

I'm sorry: This "uncontested fact."

Ben moves on from here to spout several more unsupported or badly supported claims: that Leftist professors don't give a balanced point of view in the classroom, but simply spout propaganda; that the "brainwashing" of students is extremely effective.

His evidence for this last? Students who came into a single universities in 2001 were 29.9% liberal and 20.7% conservative. This is based on a national survey of all university students in the USA. When they graduated, Ben says, they were 71% liberal and only 20 percent conservative. This, on the other hand, is based on the voting patterns of students at one university (UCLA) for one election (Bush v. Gore), evidence collected in 2000 -- an entire year before the results collected in the survey he is comparing the voting records to.

I can't believe Ben honestly believes this is an appropriate way to use evidence. I guess he's hoping his audience is too gullible to care?

But Ben doesn't need this evidence, he says! All the surveys support him! (He doesn't cite any.) Talk radio supports him!

Also, he has personal experience. When he went to UCLA, everyone was mean to him and the newspaper fired him -- for exposing Muslims, he claims, but again he cites no evidence. I suspect they fire him because of his crap research skills and his fundamental dishonesty.

His final evidence in this first chapter? An anonymous email from a professor who supports his brave truth-telling.

That's right. His readers support him in emails.

Chapter Two

Ben starts this chapter with a scandalous claim from a geography professor -- his geography professor, I assume -- who pointed out that truth is subjective, since we are all subjective beings. This is bunk, Ben declares. Of course universal truth exists! Of course evil exists!

Only a tiny bit from the professor seems to be a direct quotation. And, of course, this is being reported by Ben years after the lecture took place. Given that this is a geography class, I suspect what was actually said had more to do with how maps were drawn than with whether babies are murdered (Ben's go-to example, always -- he's a fetus-fetishizer).

Ben goes on to claim that this moral relativism permeates universities. Again, he bases this claim on dubious evidence -- comments by a few professors, and a single poll which found that 73% of students think their professors are moral relativists. This poll is no longer available, so I can't check how many students it surveyed or what they were actually asked.

He goes on to cite another shocking example -- his source an editorial that cites the same survey Ben cited above (in the very same language; I wonder if plagiarism is a moral wrong?) -- that "10 to 20% of his students refused to say that the Holocaust was wrong."

I went to the source. Here's what the editorial actually says, in its 4th paragraph, one in which he is arguing that students are moral relativists, just like their teachers:

Several years ago, a college professor in upstate New York reported that 10 percent to 20 percent of his students could not bring themselves to criticize the Nazi extermination of Europe's Jews. Some students expressed personal distaste for what the Nazis did.

"A college professor" "several years ago" "reported."

Again, this is appallingly scholarship.

More nonsense follows. Ben cites Peter Singer, another favorite boogeyman for the Right, a philosopher famous for saying newborns have no more moral right to exist than piglets do. Evil! Ben shrieks. This is evil!

He cites Paul Erlich, for the horrible crime of comparing the bombing of Hiroshima with the Holocaust. Evil! Ben shrieks. The Jews were innocent, those civilians in Japan...had to be killed, to save American lives.


This is pretty much how Ben always argues, from what I know of his later work. He says something shocking, and usually ridiculous, and then supports it with "evidence" that has little or nothing to do with his claim.

I mean, let's look at that argument. The victims of the Holocaust were innocent. Okay, so far so good.

His claim that the civilians who died at Hiroshima are not equal to the victims of the Holocaust should, reason shows us, rest on the fact that those civilians were complicit some great crime: not innocent.

Instead, he says that they had to die, to protect the lives of American soldiers. Now this may or may not be true, but it doesn't work to refute his outrage over the comparison. In fact, the idea that the civilians "had to die" is exactly the argument that (pardon my Godwinning) Hitler used to murder six million Jews and another six million Poles, socialists, disabled people, Romani, and LGBT people (including trans people). Those 12 million had to be killed, to protect the Aryan nation.

Ben supplies several more, equally badly supported examples as "evidence" that professors are Leftist. For instance, in one of his classes, a professor played a rap song, and then tried to discuss whether censoring that song was a violation of the First Amendment.

(See, there's right and there's wrong, and if you disagree with MAGA Americans, obviously you're wrong. It's right to violate free speech, unless it's Ben's free speech you're violating, then it's wrong)

The Left, Ben concludes this chapter by stating, clearly exists in order to "debase morality."

That's all I can take for now. (This is another way Ben "wins" arguments. After you spend several hours refuting his first three sentences, you're really too exhausted to go on.)


I forgot to tell you, but the kid and his roommate rescued a kitten off the street

They've had him for a couple months now. His name is Banksy, AKA Stinky Wumpus.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Elizabeth Warren

Here's a precis.

I'm liking Warren more and more.

Saturday Links

Octavia Butler, who died too young

Get Out While You Can

LOL (I love the video in this, so I'm grateful to the bigots who let me see it)

Why we fight 

This is horrifying

This is wonderful (hat tip TYWKIWDBI)

Summer in Arkansas

We've had a fairly mild summer here so far -- highs in the high 80s or low 90s. If you waited until seven or eight o'clock to take your daily walk, the weather was pleasant cool, and the air dry.

But that has changed over the past two days. We're still only in the low 90s so far, but the humidity has ramped up. I took my walk yesterday just at sunset, which is 8:36 pm here, and it was still smotheringly hot.

Also bugs. Lots of bugs.

Days like this, I think fondly of my time in Idaho. Summers did get hot there too, but the humidity was 15 or 16%. And nights were always in the 50s.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Thank You for the Donation!

(You know who you are.)

Math Math Math

I think I mentioned some weeks ago that I had found this free math game online. It's called Prodigy Math, and I have to pretend to be 13 years old to play it, but I'm really enjoying the experience.

It's by no means a perfect game -- it doesn't really teach math, exactly. Instead, your character is presented with small quests, and then as the character goes about solving the quest, they are confronted with math problems to solve. The game makes hints available, but it doesn't explain the math exactly.

So frequently I have to stop and google how to do a given math problem. But this is great! Things I never understood before -- like what "squared" really means, for instance -- are becoming clear.

Although the game is really obsessed with graphing, as well as rise/run.

Anyway, that's my new go-to when I can't think of the next paragraph in my novel. I go do some math problems while I think.

Highly recommended for anyone who, like me, never actually learned math in grade school.

Image result for prodigy math game
This is the guy who celebrates with you when you get a math problem right

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Right-Wing Screeching

This story was very hot on the reactionary Right-Wing blogs about two weeks ago -- I assume it got big play on Fox News, that's usually why the entire Conservative Blogosphere goes apeshit at once.

Here's what happened: a young woman who had been sexually assaulted asked to be euthanized. (Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, as well it should be. But it is reserved for hopeless cases -- for instance, people dying of liver cancer, which is a horribly painful way to die.) The young woman's request was denied, because her case wasn't hopeless, and she was far too young, and because treatment options existed which she hadn't exhausted yet.

The young woman subsequently starved herself to death. No euthanasia was involved, although her parents did make the decision to stop force-feeding her, after several months. (If you know anything about force-feeding, you know it's a form of torture.)

Fox News reported that the girl had been euthanized, because of course they did. And then everyone who watches Fox News began screeching about the case. Rod Dreher wept big hot crocodile tears over it. Those GODLESS SECULAR people over there in the SOCIALIST Netherlands are SO EEEVIL, our world is DOOMEd and so on, for about 15 paragraphs.

Worse, the Conservative Attack Squad, besides screaming about this on Twitter and elsewhere nonstop, then went after the poor child's parents.

Did any of them bother to check the sources and see what actually happened? You know they didn't. If they were capable of checking sources and evaluating evidence, they wouldn't be watching Fox News.

Monday, June 17, 2019

John Oliver on Impeachment

This is 20 minutes long, but well worth watching:

Pride 2019 and Local Xtians

The kid says there were no "Christians" haranguing the people at Pride this year (though there are always churches who march in the parade itself), but this made me smile anyway:

No photo description available.

Last year there was a "Christian" dragging a cross on little wheels, you know, like Jesus did, and screeching at all the people and families there about how they would burn in hell and so on.

People surrounded him and chanted LGBT slogans until he fled in a sulk.

Free speech in action.

Also, one of the kid's friends is featured in this article.

What I'm Reading Now

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are

Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-DavidowitzI forget which blog I saw this recommended on, but boy, were they right. Stephens-Davidowitz used to be a data scientist for for Google; now he writes for the New York Times. This is book is both readable (occasionally hilarious) and enlightening. Stephens-Davidowitz does research into what "big data" can tell us that "small data" can't. "Small data" includes thinks like polls and surveys. Even the largest of these, as he points out, can only capture a few thousand respondents. Big data can give us billions.  Big data is things like the records the IRS keeps, google searches, and searches done on porn sites. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

One example of how small data went wrong is the polling that showed, in 2016, that Trump would lose the election. At the same time that the polls were showing Trump would lose, Stephens-Davidowitz was tracking certain google searches (racist google searches, mostly) which showed Trump would probably win. (People lie to polls. They don't lie to Google.)

Very much worth reading.

K.J. Parker, Devices and Desires, Evil for Evil

I recently discovered K.J. Parker, as regular readers will recall. These are two more of his books, the first two books in the Engineer Trilogy. They're about an engineer, obviously, but also about the politics, rulers, and citizens of several kingdom. As I told my kid, these books are like Game of Thrones, except good, and without all the gratuitous rape and violence. (There is some violence, but it's mostly off the page, and it's never used salaciously.)

These are great big fat books, 700 or 800 pages long, and they're mostly about duty, politics, and war, with only tiny slices of romance. No sex, now that I think about it. That is odd.

Lots about engineering, though.

Anyway, if that's the sort of book you like, you'll like these. I'm waiting for the third one to arrive now.

Connie Willis, The Doomsday Book

This is one of my 100 favorite books, and I re-read it, along with all of Willis's other work, every two or three years.

It's about time travel, and also epidemics, and also academics. Hits all my sweet spots, in other words.

Also, Willis is a wonderful writer. Every time I read this book, I stay up all night to finish it.

Dr. Skull points out that there is no sex in this one either, or in most of Willis. The odd part here is that I never noticed that. I won't say Willis never writes about sex, because she wrote the truly horrific "All My Darling Daughters," which upset Orson Scott Card to no end. But usually her characters are teachers, or mentors, and their students, and any romantic interest is unrequited.

This one and Passage are my two favorite books by Willis. Those of you who prefer more romance might try To Say Nothing of the Dog first.

"Fire Watch" is the first short story I ever read by Willis. Lucky you, it's available online!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

My Kid Does Pride Art

My kid does art for Pride 2019

These are characters from his comic 

Sunday Links

I love a happy ending

I also love this story by Carmen Maria Machado

This is America

About that liberal bias

Tucker speaks out against global tyranny

What unfettered capitalism creates

Of course MAGA Americans are buying this story with the same eager glee that they buy every story that allows them to express their not-so-hidden racism

What it's like teaching MAGA-Americans

Blast from the past: These two posts from New Orleans after the flood

Image may contain: text

So I'm Wasting Time on the Internets...

...and I come across an article claiming to explain how to keep your home clean. (Actual title: "Is your home a mess? There's an app for that!")

I click on it, since there between writing novels, reading novels, taking the dog to the dog park, and catching up on the new season of Elementary,  keeping the house clean is waaaay down on my list.

Guess what the app does?

It lets you hire people to clean your house.

This is what I mean by people in the top 5% being radically out of touch with those of us in the middle and working classes.

If I had the money to hire someone to clean my house, I wouldn't need a damn "app for that." I could throw a stone out my front door and hit fifteen or twenty people eager to clean my house, mow my lawn, deal with my scraggly oak trees, do my laundry, and any other job I could pay them ten dollars an hour to do.

App for that my ass.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Pride 2019 Part 2

Here's my kid and his roommate at Pride 2019.

His favorite parts (and I'm quoting):

  • the Jewish temple was there!!!
  • free mom hugs 
  • dude holding a "no cops at pride" sign walking right past a cop
  • democratic socialists with signs saying "queer liberation not rainbow capitalism"
  • Planned Parenthood float came by and everyone went ham cheering

Pride 2019

My kid is at Pride today, with his roommate and his bff from high school. They just got their pictures taken for a LGBT magazine, and are having a fine time, apparently.

We went with him last year. They grow up so fast!

Let's Finish Unwind (please)

Okay, I'ma plow through the rest of this book, because jeez.

Chapter 56

Connor is in the Unwind dorm and he is sad. He is not a hero, just a regular guy, and he cannot save anyone. Poor Connor.

Roland shows up. They have a big fight. Roland almost kills Connor, and then doesn't. Roland is sad to learn he is not actually a killer. Poor Roland.

Chapter 57

Lev is in the Unwind dorm for tithes, which is much nicer than the regular Unwind dorms. They have a pool! They have gourmet food! They get nice clothing and their own move theater.

This makes no sense, of course. Given that no one comes back from these Harvest Camps, why spend money on all this luxury? Why keep any of these kids alive for longer than necessary? Why not just harvest them as they show up? Maybe we have to wait until specific organs are ordered? Like, we need a kidney type O+ here in Amarillo?

But given the huge population in our future world, and given that -- apparently -- people are getting transplants for things like having ears that are too big, wouldn't the requirement for organs and other parts be huge? It's huge now, and we don't use transplants except as a last resort.


Lev is not sad. Lev is angry. All the other tithes are in prayer meetings.

I just want to note again that this 'religion people send one in ten of all their children to be harvested' makes literally no sense. I'm assuming religious people are supposed to be the ones who fought on the pro-life side of teh Great Civil War II. You can't get less pro-life than sending your kids off to be murdered. I mean, I get that 'pro-life' people don't actually care about life. I get that it's actually about controlling the poors and keeping them poor. But it's a huge leap from 'poor people shouldn't be able to control their own bodies' to 'let's murder our own kids.'


Lev is angry because he has lost his faith in God. He prays, but his heart has been hardened.

Lev is exercising, because his medical tests showed his triglycerides are high. He can't be harvested until they're normal, I guess. Jokes on the Harvest Camp, though, bc ACTUALLY Lev has taken some drug that makes it SEEM like his triglycerides are high.

Lev's fellow anarchist terrorist kids are wizard scientists, I guess.

He and Blaine and Mai meet up. They are fellow anarchist terrorists. Mai is worried because Risa saw her. What will Risa think? (Why would Risa just think Mai has been sent here to be Unwound, same as her?) Blaine says not to worry, and that they should do "it" tomorrow. He gives them both detonators.

Lev reflects on what they're about to do. He knows it is wrong, but he doesn't care. Because he is ANGRY, see, and his heart is HARD.

Remember the terrorists we met back in chapter whatever, the chapter about the high school? The terrorists who were called Clappers? This is what Lev and his Fellow Chaotic Evil Anarchist Terrorists plan to do. Apparently you put detonators on your hands, and then you clap, and...something blows up?

I suspect Neal knows as little about ordnance as he does about pro-choice people.

Chapter 58

Connor and Risa meet in the girl's bathroom to make out.

I'm serious. That's what happens in this chapter. What the actual hell.

Chapter 59

Roland is sent for harvesting. He has a rare blood type, AB-, so his parts are in high demand.

Chapter 60

A two paragraph chapter which very solemnly tells us that how Unwinding happens is a Deep Secret. But it takes three hours, and 12 surgeons. Which seems like a lot, but okay.

Chapter 61

Roland gets unwound. This is actually an effective chapter, and pretty well written. It's based on a ridiculous premise, though, which is that kids being unwound are kept conscious through the entire procedure.

“This is it, then,” Roland says. “You’re putting me under?” 
Although he can’t see her mouth beneath her surgical mask, he can see the smile in her eyes. “Not at all,” she says. “By law, we’re required to keep you conscious through the entire procedure.” The nurse takes his hand. “You have a right to know everything that’s happening to you, every step of the way.” 

Although this allows Neal to give us a dramatic narrative of Roland being taken apart while being fully aware of every step, it makes absolutely no sense. Why would the "law" required consciousness in these kids? Why would the surgeons want them to be conscious? It makes no sense. That's not how humans behave.

So -- effective, but silly.

Chapter 62

Lev gets ready to be a Chaotic Evil Terrorist.

But first a preacher takes the Tithes to a tree which has been grafted with all sorts of other trees -- one branch is from a peach tree, another from a cherry tree, and so on. It's a metaphor, get it?

Lev quotes Proverbs 11:2, saying being proud at having created such a tree is a big sin. It's a metaphor, get it?

The preacher is humbled by Lev's knowledge of scripture. He takes his flock back to the Tithe area, and on the way Connor confronts Lev -- he doesn't get a chance to say anything, but that's not what this is about. This is about Lev finding out that Connor is going to be unwound -- today!

He finds his fellow Chaotic Evil Terrorists and insists on moving up their terrorist act to today. He gets them to agree, but then ---

THEN the religious counselors bring Lev in for a prayer session. Because he seems so troubled.

OH NO. Will Lev miss the rendezvous for the Chaotic Evil Terrorist Act?

Chapter 63

We're in the point of view of a Harvest Camp guard. He is moody and sad because he hates being a guard, but it's the only job he can get, since he's was raised in a State Home, like Risa. Life is so unfair. Poor victim of economic anxiety.

Lev's fellow Chaotic Evil Terrorist show up, pretending they're here to take food up to the band. OH NO. Risa is in the band!

Chapter 64

The guards show up to take Connor to be Unwound. One mentions that he has pretty brown eyes, and that a buddy of his is looking for brown eyes, because his girlfriend doesn't like blue eyes.

Connor is appalled and terrified, but he goes with them, determined to walk to the Harvest Shop with dignity.

Chapter 65

Neal starts this one with a solemn little homily on how suicide bombers (which is what Clappers are) are deluded. Terrorism is Bad, m'kay?

Then Blaine and Mai explode -- Blaine because he's hit by a guard, and Mai because she detonates herself. They have liquid explosives in their BLOOD, y'all. (Oh my God.)

Before Mai dies, she thinks about how and why she and Blaine killed the Goldens. It's because they were insufficiently respectful when her boyfriend died. So she's angry and her heart is hard.

Lev doesn't clap. He can't bring himself to do it. Because he's Really Good After All.

The building blows up with Connor inside and Risa on the roof. Connor staggers, mangled and bleeding, from the wreckage. Everyone in the camp decides Connor blew up the building -- he's already their hero, because he's the Akron AWOL. Their glee at his Terrorist Act (as they think it is) sparks a rebellion, and all the kids rise up and begin tasing the guards.

Lev takes care of poor mangled Connor.

Chapter 66

Connor wakes up in the hospital. Local ER personnel have conspired to pretend he's the guard from the camp, Elvis Robert Mullard, and 19 years old. So he's safe from being unwound. Good news!

But they've given him an eye and an arm from Unwound kids. And the Roland's arm.

Bad news.

Chapter 67

Risa also survived. (I know, it's such a surprise! Also, most of the other kids from the Harvest Camp escaped in the riot and have not yet been recovered.) But she is paralyzed from the waist down. Bad news!

But in Neal's world, although we can Unwind 13 year olds, there's a law against Unwinding the disabled. (What?) So Risa is safe now. Good news!

They offered to transplant an Unwind's spine into her -- then she wouldn't be paralyzed anymore, and then she could be Unwound again. Oddly enough, she refused this deal.

Connor comes to see Risa and tells her about his new identity. They're both going to live and they wuv each other.

Then Risa notices his arm -- and whose arm it is. "I will never touch you with this hand," Connor promises.

But Risa kisses his Evil Hand and puts it to her face. "It's your hand," she says, "Roland would never touch me like this."

Then we get the worst paragraph in the book:

Connor smiles, and Risa takes a moment to look down at the shark on his wrist. It holds no fear for her now, because the shark has been tamed by the soul of a boy. No—the soul of a man. 
Oh my God.

Chapter 68

Lev also survived, and is being held in some sort of Super-Max Federal Medical Center while they de-tox his explosive blood.

Pastor Dan, from way back in like chapter five, comes to visit, and we learn CyFi, our magical negro, is leading a movement to stop Unwinding. CyFi is going to save Eva Lev!

Also Lev is famous. His picture is on the cover of all the news magazines, because he's the Clapper who didn't Clap. Also, he rescued three people from the building destroyed by his fellow Chaotic Evil Terrorists.

He's a hero, not a zero!

“I have to believe that things happen for a reason," [Pastor Dan says.] "Your kidnapping, your becoming a clapper, your refusing to clap”—he glances at the magazine cover in his hand—“it’s all led to this. For years, Unwinds were just faceless kids that no one wanted—but now you’ve put a face on unwinding.” 
Yeah, okay, Pastor Dan.

Again, no. This is not how people work. Everyone in this world must know someone who has been Unwound. Why would they suddenly care just because Lev didn't blow himself up?

Also, good news for Lev -- they don't Unwind Clappers, because "that stuff" never gets entirely out of your system. Good news.

In which case, wouldn't Lev have to stay here in this Super Max Federal Medical Center for the rest of his life? Bad news.

But nah. Pastor Dan says Lev will get a few years in juvey, and a few years of House Arrest, and although his parents don't want him back, his brother Marcus is willing to take him in.

Also Pastor Dan has left that Evil Church, the one that supports Unwinding. Now he's following a "different" God.

Lev's hard heart unhardens. "Do you think maybe I can believe in that God too?" he asks.

Cue heart-warming music.

Chapter 69

This book has 69 chapters. Heh. 69. (In other news, I am 12 years old.)

We find out why the Admiral was collecting people with his son's parts. Not so he can put Humphrey back together again!

Naw, he is adopting everyone who has a part of his son. Aw! More heart-warming music.

Also, it's useful that they're all under 18. Why didn't any adults get bits of Humphrey?

Also the Admiral and his new 750 kids are all going to Fight to End Unwinding.

Meanwhile, the Graveyard (now called Purgatory) has a new leader. Guess who!

That's right. Connor is now in charge. (Risa is also here, playing a piano that showed up out of somewhere.)

Connor says this to the new crop of runaway Unwinds that show up:

“I don’t know what happens to our consciousness when we’re unwound,” says Connor. “I don’t even know when that consciousness starts. But I do know this.” He pauses to make sure all of them are listening. “We have a right to our lives!”
The kids go wild. 
“We have a right to choose what happens to our bodies!” 

Also, THE END.

Thank God.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ignorance at the Top

Over on Twitter a conservative guy I sort of like (he's at least willing to try to base his conclusions on reliable evidence) claimed that sky-high rent and cost of living is not a problem, or at least not one that causes poverty and homelessness.

He says people can just move. Go to some place where the rent and cost of living are more affordable. Get a job there.

This take illustrates my main complaint about Conservatives in the top 5% of income levels. They have no idea what life is like for people who are making the average income in this country -- usually they have no idea what the average income even is.

They think their income -- $150,000, $250,000 -- is "average." They think they're middle-class.

In reality, almost half of Americans can't cover a $400 emergency expense. (This is what's happening this week in the delagar household -- Dr. Skull needs dental work, and it's $500. It might as well be five million. We don't have it, and we don't have any way to get it.)

But sure. "Just move!"

First off, you'd have to quit your job and get a new job. This assumes that well-paying jobs are readily available in places with cheap rent, and that a person in poverty can easily get one. Neither of those things are true. (Dr. Skull, who has a PhD, has been trying to find a job literally anywhere in America for the past three years. He is finally getting interviews, but they're for jobs that pay between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. And while the rents in these places are cheaper than the rents in say, San Francisco, they aren't that damn cheap.)

Also, quitting your job and "just moving" will mean at least a month without a salary, unless you're very lucky. Given most households in America live paycheck to paycheck, this is a non-starter.

Second, you'd need money for moving expenses, and the deposit and first month's rent on your new place. See "Not able to cover a $400 expense," above.

Third, "just moving" will take many Americans away from their social safety network -- the grandparents who will babysit their kids in an emergency, the dentist who will let them pay $50 a month instead of requiring the money upfront, the neighbor who knows how to fix cars cheap.

Finally, even assuming you can get past all of the above, moving to where the rents are cheaper is not so easy. Almost everywhere in the USA, rent has been increasing steadily, unlike people's incomes.

So yeah. A really bad take.

We're not even that poor -- we're solidly middle-class, according to the income quintile tables -- but I have been trying to move us to a cheaper place, literally in my own town, for the past year and a half.

I can find cheaper places (cheaper by $100 to $150/month); and there are several I would very much like to live in.

But first I need to save up at least $1000 in moving expenses.

See: Americans don't have $400 for an emergency, above.

Right now I'm just hoping the car (which has over 100,000 miles on it) doesn't break down, because if it does, we're fucked.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Scary bc True

I've seen about sixty essays from freshman students earnestly arguing that video games are bad for kids -- so many that I know adults are still telling them this, despite all the research which shows the opposite.

It's funny (and by funny I mean really sad) that the real danger is people getting sucked into the propaganda machine that is Fox News.

I've seen so many otherwise reasonable people have their ability to think critically and evaluate evidence destroyed by that hate machine.


Apparently I'm not very sinful


Envy:Very Low
Pride:Very Low

The Seven Deadly Sins Quiz on

I mean, except when it comes to sloth.

Which, fair.

Monday, June 10, 2019


I just made the most complicated macaroni and cheese recipe on the planet.

It better be world-class mac and cheese.

Tell Me What to Read Next

I'm nearly finished kicking the piss out of Unwind. Tell me what book to mock next.

The Kid wants me to have a go at Jim Butcher's Storm Front, but I can't find a free copy on any of my sites (Amazon, Scribd, and Google) and it's against my rules to actually pay for one of these books.

Other suggestions are welcome!

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Neal Schusterman Unwind, Chapters 48-55

In this section, Neal takes us into an Unwind camp. Neal makes the camp resemble the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, because abortion is the same thing as genocide, clearly.

Chapter 48

Risa and Connor are being guarded by a single Unwind Juvenile Officer. Given that Connor knocked down a similar officer about a month ago, stole his weapon, and escaped, their passive ineptitude here seems plot-convenient.

Nothing happens in this chapter.

Chapter 49

We learn why Roland betrayed Connor and Risa -- there's a $500 reward for turning in an Unwind, and he hopes to get not just the money for them, but the money for all 400 Unwinds still at the Graveyard. The juvenile officer in charge of him pretends to be interested, but....

Chapter 50


The officer tells Roland they already know all about the Graveyard, that it's a way to keep Unwind runaways off the street.

I mean, it's a nice plot twist, but entirely unbelievable. With all the profit they're making Unwind kids and selling their organs and skin and hair and so on to a hungry market, why would they leave 400 prime candidates untouched?

Off all three kids go to Unwind Camp.

Chapter 51

This starts Part Six of the book, and Neal gives us an excerpt from a brochure that apparently markets the Unwind camps to parents thinking to cash in on their kids:

Each facility is privately owned, state licensed, and federally funded by your tax dollars. Regardless of the site you choose, you can feel confident that your Unwind will receive the finest possible care from our board-certified staff as they make their transition to a divided state. 
Privately owned, but also federally funded. The government is paying for abortions Unwinding!

In Chapter 51, we get a description of the camps, especially the Happy Jack Camp where Connor, Risa, and Roland end up. They're brightly painted and filled with basketball, volleyball, and other exercise yards. The staff wear Hawaiian shirts, and the doctors wear bright yellow scrubs.

Everyone has already heard of Connor before he arrives -- he's the Akron AWOL, the one who took down a Juvenile Officer and managed to escape. He's a hero, like Humphrey Wossname.

The staff at Happy Jack are expecting Connor to start trouble right away. Usually a kid spends about three weeks at the camp before he's Unwound, but if Connor starts trouble, they can Unwind him at once.

This, again, is a plot point that only makes sense until you think about it. Given that they're going to Unwind Connor anyway, and given that they expect him to start trouble and want to quash that trouble ASAP, why not Unwind him right away?

Why give him time to start trouble, in other words?

I guess he's still got plot-armor.

Chapter 52

Risa gets interviewed by an intake officer. They find out she can play the piano, and she's assigned to the Camp band. Like the orchestra at Auschwitz, they play music while the Unwinds are being escorted into the clinic to be Unwound. This special skill set means they can stay alive longer.

Get it? Get it? Abortion Unwinding is just like when the Nazis murdered half the Jews in the entire world.

Chapter 53

This is a long chapter, but nothing happens except that while he's playing volleyball, Conner sees a group of Tithes come into camp. He thinks of Lev, but knows he can't be one of them.

Chapter 54

Psych! Lev is totally one of them.

And he is here on a mission.

In case you forgot, Lev joined the Evil Terrorists way back in Chapter 35. Apparently they've sent him here to do some Evil Terrorist stuff.

Chapter 55

Risa is playing with the orchestra while some more kids get marched in to be Unwound. All around her, other players (all male, for some reason) discuss how they plan to escape their fate. Turns out playing for the orchestra only keeps you alive until you're seventeen years old and fifty weeks. Then the Unwind you, since once you turn 18 they have to let you go.

Their plans are sadly ludicrous. This is actually not a bad move on Neal's part. One kid, for instance, says he's "counting on them lowering the legal age of adulthood to seventeen." That's how he's planning to be saved.

Another is going to leap off a roof and smash up his legs. They'll have to heal him before they unwind him, he explains, and he'll reach age 18 while that's happening.

Risa is stunned at the dopiness of their plans. She just keeps playing the piano, though.

Oh, and what is the band playing? "Don't Fear the Reaper." Because no music has been written in this world since 1976.

Only 20% of the book left. Here's my guess for what happens next: Lev blows up some part of the camp, and Risa, Connor, and Roland all escape. Onward to the sequel!

We'll see if I'm right next time.

Can This Be True?

Two days without rain here now. My backyard is still a swamp, but the river is going down. And no rain forecast for the next six days.

Perhaps the Great Flood is over?

What?! More New Work?

Here's a review of See You Yesterday, a movie produced by Spike Lee and written by Fredrica Bailey and Stefon Bristol. I really love the used of black culture and Bronx culture in this one. Also, time travel!

Read for free!

Friday, June 07, 2019

New Work on my Patreon

A new chapter of Triple Junction is available on my patreon.

Also, read the first five chapters of the novel, plus SF criticism, absolutely free!

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Neal Schusterman's Unwind Ch 39-47

Here comes series of "chapters" that are all two to three paragraphs long. I think Neal is attempting to create drama. If so, nah.

Chapter 39

Ronald's point of view. He gets a note from Connor saying I KNOW WHAT YOU DID, and saying meet me at the Fed-Ex Jet or ELSE.

Ronald goes.

Chapter 40

Connor hides in the jet and then trips Ronald and locks him in a crate while he questions him. These crates are starting to bother me, frankly. They're not shipping crates -- which is how we'd usually expect to find items packed for transport. They appear to be cartoon crates, like those in which Coyote received his Acme Rockets.

Anyway, Connor shoots air-holes in the crate, to show us that unlike SOME PEOPLE he doesn't plan to suffocate Ronald. No one hears the gunshots, by the way.

Chapter 41

Undefined Unwinds have been searching for Emby, thinking he is lost in the desert, I guess? (Emby is the one who had the lung of the Admiral's son, who was sent to the Admiral's wife.) They find the graves of the Goldens, and decide the Admiral killed them.

An angry mob heads for the Admiral's jet.

Chapter 42

The Admiral has sent for Risa to bring him some aspirin. His shoulder hurts. (Neal is hinting heavily that the Admiral is actually having a heart attack.) Risa takes his blood pressure, "just in case."

Chapter 43

The mob attacks the jet. Risa fights them off -- boy, can she throw a punch! -- and locks them out. The Admiral's heart is racing, and his shoulder hurts worse. Is that an anvil I see before me?

The mob begin ripping the jet to shreds with their bare hands. (No, really.) Among other things, they tear out the power line that goes to the generator. The jet "quickly begins to bake in the broiling sun."

Is it baking or broiling, Neal? Make up your mind.

Chapter 44

Connor is interrogating Roland, locked in the Acme Crate. He wants Roland to admit to killing the Goldens, and also Emby. Roland says swear words. Connor says they're not leaving until Roland confesses.  Roland says worse swear words. (Not on the page. Neal just tells us Roland is saying bad words, he doesn't tell us the bad words.)

Chapter 45

It's 100 degrees in the jet. Risa notes that the Admiral does not look good. Outside, the mob has finished tearing up the Admiral's jet and are now tearing all the rest of the airplanes apart, also setting fire to them.

The helicopter pilot notices the flames and flies in to see what's up. He wonders if his deeds have led to this. Apparently the pilot killed the Goldens? Maybe?

When he lands, the mob turns on him.  He thinks this is a good thing. Dude.

Chapter 46

Roland is still not confessing. Hayden comes to get Connor to stop the mob. Connor rushes off to do it. He finds the pilot being kicked to death by the mob, and pulls them off him. (Why don't they attack Connor? Plot armor, I guess.)

The pilot confesses to killing the Goldens, with his dying breath.

Connor rushes to the Admiral's jet. Somehow he knows Risa is in there, even though he's been torturing interrogating Roland all morning. He tears the mob off the jet, screaming that they all deserve to be Unwound.

This shocks everyone into calming the fuck down, and Connor leads a crew to get the Admiral's jet open. Risa falls into his arms. So romantic.

Sadly, the Admiral is having a heart attack, and the only way to get him to a hospital is via the helicopter. But oh no the pilot is dead.

Luckily he was training someone else to fly. Unluckily, that someone is....Roland.

Who is probably not in the mood to be helpful right now.

Chapter 47

Neal finesses the conversation between Connor and Roland, in which Connor talks Roland into flying the helicopter (and never mind that we're supposed to believe the pilot trained a 14 year old to fly a helicopter in like 10 days). This chapter is in the POV of an ER resident who is on duty when Connor, Risa, and Roland fly the Admiral in for help.

The Admiral refuses a heart transplant. The resident says he's crazy. He insists. Connor suggests that she do "whatever" doctors used to do before Unwinds started supplying them with unlimited hearts. Fine, the resident sighs, and stomps toward the ER.

PLOT TWIST: Roland follows her and rats Conner and Risa out as runaway Unwinds. The ER residents calls the Unwind Police on them.

Why isn't Roland afraid of being arrested himself? Also, why don't Connor and Risa run for it right away?

Excellent questions!

Monday, June 03, 2019

The Flood!

Look, it's our flood in the Guardian!

The level in the river here is supposed to be going down, and our bridges are all still open. We're still above water at our house!

Neil Schusterman's Unwind Chapters 35 -38

More Unwind! The story takes a turn, and I am not quite sure what to make of it.

Chapter 35

We're in Lev's point of view. Schusterman uses this chapter to establish that Lev has been radicalized. I would have expected that to have been because of what happened with Cyrus -- Lev meeting parents that sold their kid into the Unwind program because he was too much trouble, rather than a Holy Tithe to God, as he thought he was.

But no. Schusterman says hanging around with Unwinds is what has radicalized him. Unwinds are liars and trouble-makers, and so now Lev is a liar and a trouble-maker.

Given that Connor and Risa have also been hanging around with Unwinds, and neither of them have been radicalized, I'm not sure I agree with this police work, but okay.

The point is, Lev has arrived at the Graveyard and he immediately finds his way to a group of agitators. Or performance artists, maybe? They're a disparate group of Unwinds whose mission is to cause trouble. They recognize that their situation is unjust, and their reaction to it is to create chaos.

They're chaotic evil.

They don't have a plan. They don't have a goal. They just want to cause harm, to creative havoc, in order to get revenge for the injustice done to them.

It doesn't make much sense, but then they are all thirteen years old.

Lev joins up:

“All right, I’m in.” Back at home Lev always felt part of something larger than himself. Until now, he hadn’t realized how much he missed that feeling. 
Religion, terrorist group -- no real difference, am I right?

Chapter 36

Back to Risa's point of view. She's studying medical and anatomy textbooks in the three planes which the Admiral has set up as study centers. No teachers, no exams, just books. According to Schusterman, it's this lack of teachers and books that cause so many Unwinds to spend their time in the study jets. See, because without teachers to destroy a student's desire to learn, kids are delighted to educate themselves.

There's no internet in this world, apparently. All the books are hard-copy books. Also, none of these kids have phones. Connor did have one, back in the early chapters of the book, but it appears to have vanished.

Risa has been working as a medic in the Graveyard, but she wants to know more about the subject. She's also thinking ahead -- when she's 18 and can leave, she's thinking she might join the military and study as a medic with them.

So far Risa's the only character I actually like in this book.

Side note: for a country that's no longer at war, this Future America devotes a sizable portion of its population to the military.

One day Risa finds Connor studying in a jet, which so unusual she can't think what it means. Turns out Connor is reading about Criminology. He makes Risa promise she won't become one of the new Goldens.

A-HA. Connor suspects the Admiral had the Goldens killed.

Risa and Connor kiss, which frankly comes out of nowhere. I've never seen two people with less chemistry.

Lev comes into the medical jet to be treated for sunburn, and Risa wonders what happened to the sweet boy she used to know. Lev says he has better things to do these days. Risa asks him if he still thinks about God.

Lev looks uneasy, and then shrugs it off.

I think Schusterman is saying the real cause of Lev's radicalization is his Anger at God. Lev is rebelling -- but against God!!

I assume he learns the error of his ways and rededicates his life to Jesus soon.

Meanwhile, another work call/slave market is held. Lev volunteers along with the other members of his Terrorist Cell to be sold to a job working the pipeline in Alaska.

Apparently this near future still runs on oil. That's disappointing.

Also, I guess Lev's Terrorist Cell is aiming to cause an oil spill. Chaos!

Chapter 37

We're in the point of view of Emby, a kid we met back in the warehouse. He's got asthma and his parents bought him a lung from an Unwind kid, before they died and his aunt sold him to be Unwound himself.

Now the Admiral has cozied up to him. Emby is too stupid to wonder why. The Admiral calls him to Air Force One and sends him off in a black sedan with two Men in Black. Someone wants to meet you, the Admiral says. She's been looking for you for a long time, the Admiral says.

It's his wife.

Why is she looking for Emby? Well, actually she's just looking for....his lung.

Yes, the Admiral and his wife are the mother of Humphrey Dunfree, the kid who everyone thinks is an urban legend, the one whose parents sent him to be unwound, and who are now gathering up all his pieces again.

The legend says it's so they can re-assemble him. That gives the Admiral a motive for running the graveyard, but yeah, if that's what he's doing, yikes.

Emby is hauled away, squeaking in protest. The Admiral sits studying the picture of his Unwound son, deeply pleased with himself.

Chapter 38

The Unwinds at the Graveyard realize Emby is missing. Roland tries to convince everyone that the Admiral sent him to be Unwound, so that he could use Emby's parts to fix his own defects (bad teeth, bad joints, baldness).

Connor knows the Admiral would never use parts from an Unwind, and he thinks Roland killed Emby to inflame his followers. The Admiral encourages him in this theory, since he can't admit what he actually did with Emby. He also tells Connor that Roland probably killed the Goldens as well.

Connor, like the dupe he is, accepts this theory uncritically.

Why is this idiot supposed to be the hero of the book? And where is Risa while all this is going on? Why isn't she here slapping Connor up the side of his head and telling him to use his brain while he still has one?

Too busy being the love interest, I guess.

We're 70% through the book. The main action better happen soon.

Image result for unwind fan art Risa
More Fan Art -- Connor and Risa smooch

Sunday, June 02, 2019

My Favorite Flood Story

A cat is stranded on the roof of a warehouse here in the Fort. Our local weatherman / hero did a segment on the kitty.

This was the result:

From the text, which I can't get to attach with the video:

Many of you have asked to see the view from SKY5 as we delivered food to a cat stranded on the the roof of a flooded building in the Arkansas River Flood.

We had four drones at the air at the same time coordinating the drop.

I was flying ‘visual line of sight’ so it I wasn’t watching the camera or the images you see here. Our Chief Photographer, Luke Patrick, had another SKY5 over the drop zone; we worked together.
(Watch 7:02 to see cat walking to the first food drop)

We made several flights back and forth dropping food due to weight restrictions on the drone (that’s why we couldn’t fly the cat out, we also didn’t want to get too close and scare it into the water)
UAFS UAFS dropped the water (actually, Sonic ice that would melt... water would have spilled out in flight)

We dropped enough food and water for at least three days. Water levels should be low enough by that time for dry ground.

The engineering challenge was to get the payload’s center of gravity on the aircraft positioned correctly so it wouldn’t adversely affect performance and flight. We achieved this with zip ties and a bungee cord.

We initially used a rope but were concerned the propeller wash would cause it to fly up into the blades so we switched to the heavier cord.

The large drop container was an empty ice cream bucket. The small ones were the bottom of a Sonic Route 44 cup and a Chick-fil-A cup. The handle at the top was made from larger zip ties which kept their shape after it was unhooked allowing us to free the drone with reverse tension.

To all the kids reading this... pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math).

Dream, brainstorm, experiment, fail, try again. Collaborate. Then repeat.

There is no limit to what your mind can accomplish to make the world a better place.

UAFS is my university, by the way.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Today's Agenda

Today I have to teach my trans son how to shave. (The T is working!)

What I'm Reading Now

M.R. Carey, Someone Like Me

I'd read Carey's The Girl with All the Gifts and felt pretty meh about it, so I almost didn't read this one when it appeared among my library's new books. On the other hand, the first few pages captured my attention, and I remember Girl being readable, so I checked it out.

This is much better than Girl. Both compulsively readable and an intriguing story. TW for Domestic violence and some other violence, but nothing too graphic. The story concerns two women, one in her early 30s and one in her late teens, who experienced horrific trauma. The older one is...possessed is the wrong word. She shares her body with Another Self, from a different time-line, a self who fled that time-lines due to horrific trauma.

What happens when two people try to occupy one body?

Excellent writing, excellent minor characters, good use of local color.

I stayed up until five a.m. reading this one. And it's about 800 pages long, so.

K. J. Parker, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

I'd heard a lot about K.J. Parker, and seen (though not read) his short stories in many SF publications. The title to this one intrigued me, to be honest, and the first few pages got my attention.

This one is also compulsively readable, mostly due to the voice of the point of view character. It's basically what it says on the tin -- the story of a city during a siege. We're in a fantasy world, but it's basically the Roman empire, and Parker borrows heavily from actual history to build that world.

Our main character is Orhan, a (Roman, or he might as well be) engineer, an ex-slave, and brilliant if occasionally hapless. When the barbarians storm Rome (it might as well be Rome), and the city's leaders are slaughtered, Orhan ends up in command, mostly just by stepping up and taking command.

The plot is Orhan figuring out ways to defend the city against the barbarian army outside. Spoilers: the barbarians are Orhan's own people. He was captured as a six year old child, and sold into slavery into let's-admit-it's-Rome. So his loyalties are a little uncomfortable.

There were a couple places where I just didn't buy Orhan's motivations, especially when he refuses a chance to get his daughter out of the city alive. And the ending is weak. But otherwise I liked this one a lot.

Liane Moriarty, The Last Anniversary, Big Little Lies, The Hypnotist's Love Story, Nine Perfect Strangers

I continue to read Moriarty. If you like cozy books with excellently drawn characters in which happy endings are guaranteed, you'll like Moriarty. The Husband's Secret is the only one I'd steer you away from. It's as well-written as the others, but a lot more grim. It also (kind of) excuses rape and violence. To be fair, I think that only happened because Moriarty had written herself into a corner. She wants happy endings for all her books, and that was really the only way she could create a happy ending for this one. Still.

Kage Baker, The Company Series

As we all know, I love Kage Baker. Her early death, like the early death of Octavia Butler, broke my heart. Every few years, I read through her entire works. It's a great series, and the other series she was starting, the one set in the Stag of Heaven world, was also wonderful. These are well worth reading. Start with A Bird on the River or A Garden of Iden. The Company series is SF; the other is fantasy.